Pregnant women - avoid sheep


Pregnant women should avoid close contact with sheep during the lambing season because of the risk of miscarriage, health officials have warned.

Some ewes carry infections such as chlamydiosis, toxoplasmosis and listeriosis, which are common causes of abortion in ewes.

The number of reports of these infections and human miscarriages resulting from contact with sheep are extremely low.

But it is important that pregnant women are aware of the potential risks, experts say.

The warnings were issued jointly by the Department of Health, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, and the Health and Safety Executive.

Women have been advised not to help with lambing, or milking ewes, and to avoid contact with aborted or newborn lambs or with the afterbirth.

Even handling clothes such as boots which have come into contact with ewes or lambs may pass on infection.

Farmers have been told to bury or burn afterbirths or aborted lambs as soon as possible to minimise the risk.

Pregnant women should seek medical advice if they experience fever or influenza-like symptoms, which they feel they could have acquired from a farm environment.

Chlamydiosis is caused by a bacterium which has the ability to cause problems in more than one species, including humans. The infection can cause miscarriage in both.

Toxoplasmosis is another bacterial infection more usually associated with dog faeces.

It can cause blindness in young chidlren if the bacteria are passed into the eye.

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